Farming practices that remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere should be rewarded in line with the development of new EU business models, according to the European Commission.

Yesterday, Wednesday, April 20, the commission launched its ‘Farm to Fork’ and ‘Biodiversity’ strategies which are central to the EU’s Green Deal – aimed at driving the bloc towards climate/carbon neutrality by 2050.

The Farm to Fork Strategy outlines that primary producers must “play their part” in achieving environmental sustainability in the food chain – which, it says, will mean significant changes in production practices in order to deliver better results.

However, the commission acknowledges that farmers will need to be incentivised if they are to reduce and optimise input usage – including: a 50% reduction in use of pesticides; a 50% reduction in antimicrobials for livestock; a 20% reduction in fertilisers (especially nitrogen and phosphorus) – in order to increase “climate resilience” on-farm.

The policy document indicates that such transition will be bolstered by its plan for new business models.

“These solutions require human and financial investment, but also promise higher returns by creating added value and by reducing costs.

“An example of a new green business model is carbon sequestration by farmers and foresters.

Farming practices that remove CO2 from the atmosphere contribute to the climate neutrality objective and should be rewarded – either via the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) or other public or private initiatives.

“A new EU carbon farming initiative under the ‘European Climate Pact’ will promote this new business model, which provides farmers with a new source of income and helps other sectors to decarbonise the food chain,” it is stated.

As part of the EU’s Green Deal, ‘The Pact’ is aimed at encouraging people and organisations to commit to concrete actions, designed at reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

It will provide opportunities for “communication, learning and networking” through citizen consultation, citizen dialogues and citizen assemblies.

Carbon counting

As previously announced in its Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) – another key pillar of the ‘Green Deal’ – the commission intends to develop a regulatory framework for certifying carbon removals based on “robust and transparent” carbon accounting to monitor and verify the authenticity of carbon removals.

It is also stated that a bio-based economy remains a largely untapped potential for farmers and their co-operatives – member states are encouraged to consider this space in their strategic plans for the next CAP.

Agriculture is responsible for 10.3% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 70% of those come from the animal sector. They consist of non-CO2 greenhouse gases (methane and nitrous oxide). In addition, 68% of the total agricultural land in the bloc is used for animal production.

“Farmers should grasp opportunities to reduce methane emissions from livestock by developing the production of renewable energy and investing in anaerobic digesters for biogas production from agriculture waste and residues, such as manure.

“Farms also have the potential to produce biogas from other sources of waste and residues, such as from the food and beverage industry, sewage, wastewater and municipal waste.

“Farm houses and barns are often perfect for placing solar panels and such investments should be prioritised in the future CAP Strategic Plans.”

The commission also committed to taking action to speed-up the market adoption of these, and other, energy efficiency solutions in the agriculture and food sectors – so long as the investments are carried out in “a sustainable manner” and “without compromising” food security or biodiversity, under the commission’s clean energy initiatives and programmes.

Next steps

The European Commission will now invite the European Parliament and the European Council to endorse its Farm to Fork Strategy and its Biodiversity Strategy and its commitments therein.

All citizens and stakeholders are also invited to engage in a broad public debate.